An Accra High Court (Commercial Court 10), presided over by Justice Jennifer Abena Dadzie, has awarded damages of One Million cedis against controversial social media commentator, Kevin Taylor, for defamatory statements he made against the Senior Partner of Accra-based corporate law firm, Africa Legal Associates (ALA) and public figure Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko.
Kevin Taylor has been consistent in criticizing Mr. Otchere-Darko, a cousin of the President of the Republic and a respected political strategist of the ruling New Patriotic Party.
Kevin Taylor falsely accused Gabby Otchere-Darko of being a beneficiary of the PDS transaction, which was incidentally abrogated by the President of the Republic. The decision to take the control of the nation’s power company back into the hands of the state, was against the insistence of the US government that the concession to PDS should be saved.
The Americans, who funded the transaction with $498 million, did not see the defective insurance guarantee certificate as a deal breaker. But President Akufo-Addo stood his ground, insisting that he could not trust a company that issued a fake insurance cover as worthy of controlling such a strategic national asset. Ironically, the PDS contract, which the President inherited from the previous John Mahama government, is often used as key evidence of corruption against the Akufo-Addo administration.
Philip Ayensu is not only a friend and neighbour to Gabby Otchere-Darko, but a known member of the ruling party and a board member of the National Communications Authority. Nevertheless, none of these became a swaying factor when the President had to do what he deemed to be in the national interest, which was to terminate the concession.
A millionaire business man of some repute, Philip Ayensu, was the chairman and main driver of PDS, which won the bid for a 20-year concession over the Ghana Electricity Company. Mr. Ayensu lives right next door to his friend, Mr. Otchere-Darko in a plush area in East Legon, Accra. But has also stressed that he has no business relationship with his lawyer neighbour, Gabby.
Mr. Otchere-Darko, who denies ever having any personal interest whatsoever in the botched project, however, admitted last year on both Metro TV and Asempa FM that he had on a few occasions offered free advice to his friend and neighbour whenever that was sought by Mr. Ayensu.
“As a transaction lawyer with a network of friends and contacts in both Ghana and abroad, my wisdom or knowledge in transactions is occasionally sought by people I know. It is not unusual. It is not always for profit. This should not mean I have a beneficial interest in every transaction that my help is sought by a friend. The world is less complex than that,” Gabby told Asempa FM in October 2019.
Kevin Taylor also falsely accused Mr. Otchere-Darko, who has strong links with London, of owning a property in the plushest part of London, Mayfair, with insinuations that the lawyer bought the property with proceeds from PDS or a similar transaction of a questionable nature. Gabby denies owning a property in Mayfair, Central London.
In October 2019, Gabby Otchere-Darko finally decided to take action and directed his lawyer, Kissi Agyebeng of Cromwell Grey LLP to sue Kevin Taylor in respect of such defamatory statements made on Kevin Taylor’s social media broadcast, “With All Due Respect” and on his Facebook Wall.
Due to the fact that Kevin Taylor is known to operate from the United States of America, on 28 October, 2019 the High Court in Accra granted an application by the lawyers of Gabby Otchere-Darko to issue a writ of summons and serve notice of same out of the jurisdiction on Kevin Taylor.
The Order of the Court specified that the notice of the writ should be served on Kevin Taylor, by expedited courier service, DHL through his own indicated address.
However, the DHL courier service could not serve Kevin Taylor at his own indicated address. The courier service tried all it could and even called Kevin Taylor on his own indicated telephone number but he denied being the person on the other end of the line. Checks made by the lawyers confirmed otherwise.
It became abundantly clear to Gabby and his lawyer, Kissi Agyebeng, that Kevin Taylor was intentionally evading service. The evasive antics of Kevin Taylor compelled the lawyer to pray the court to vary its earlier order for the notice of the writ against Kevin Taylor to be served out of the jurisdiction.
The High Court, Accra being persuaded by the argument of lawyer Kissi Agyebeng, on 16 March 2020 ordered that, in the alternative, the notice of the writ be posted on the Facebook wall of Kevin Taylor and also same forwarded to the WhatsApp number of Kevin Taylor.
Kevin Taylor, even upon service of the court processes on him, neither entered appearance nor filed a statement of defence to substantiate the allegations he made against Gabby Otchere-Darko. The lawyers for Gabby Otchere-Darko complied with all the orders of the court and even filed witness statements to support their case.
Kevin Taylor then resorted to making disparaging comments on Facebook against an associate of Kissi Agyebeng who effected the service of the processes on him. This conduct of Kevin Taylor clearly showed to the Court that he was fully aware of the court processes and proceedings but deliberately failed to show up in short.
On 12 October 2020, Gabby Otchere-Darko mounted the witness box and gave his evidence. He then called Samuel Attah-Mensah, the former Vice President of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association, to testify on his behalf.
The Court today gave judgment in favour of Gabby Otchere-Darko. The court found that Kevin Taylor had, without any basis, whatsoever, made very serious defamatory comments against Gabby Otchere-Darko.
His lawyers did not specify an amount of damages in the writ. However, the Court, in its wisdom, awarded damages in the sum of One Million cedis in the favour of the plaintiff, due to the seriousness of the defamatory matter published by Kevin Taylor.
In giving her short judgment today, Tuesday, 27 October, Justice Jennifer Dadzie added that the full judgment will be available a week later, on Tuesday, 3 November.
Wilberforce Asare / Asaase Radio